Despite the recent nationwide nursing shortage and the decline in enrollment and graduation rates at nursing schools across the country, Georgetown’s School of Nursing and Health Studies has not experienced a decrease in applications.

Last year 390 students applied to the NHS, representing an increase of approximately 40 percent from the previous year. This January the admissions office expects to receive approximately 500 applications for the class of 2008.

The increase in applications to the NHS is significantly different from the situations that exist at other nursing schools throughout America. The American Association of Colleges of Nursing reported that enrollment in nursing programs has decreased by almost 17 percent since 1995. Though 2001 saw a slight increase of 3.4 percent, enrollment numbers have yet to return the levels seen in the early 1990s.

The decrease in the number of students entering nursing school comes at a time when there is a national shortage of nurses in healthcare facilities. The amount of registered nurses is increasing at the slowest rate since the early 1980s, according to the AACN. Additionally, a large part of the current nurse population is aging, which means that a significant increase in new nurses is needed to sustain the present population.

As the baby boomers in America push into their 60s and 70s, there will be a dramatic rise in demand for healthcare providers. A study published in the June 14, 2000 issue of Journal of the American Medical Association projected that, unless there is a significant increase in nursing school enrollment, by the year 2020 American healthcare providers will have 20 percent fewer nurses than needed. If current trends continue, the system will be unable to fully meet the increased need for nurses.

Many hospitals and medical groups around the nation have created scholarships to encourage students to go into the nursing profession. Georgetown University Hospital has a Clinical Scholars Program that awards select students with a $10,000 tuition credit if they agree to work at GUH for two years after they graduate from nursing school.

“Our students are highly sought after and several have taken advantage of this scholarship program in the past,” Executive Director of the NHS Michael Bergin said.

Students in the NHS have also received scholarships from a variety of other programs. “NHS students are considered to be among the finest graduates in the country and hospitals and health systems are constantly coming up with innovative ways to recruit them,” Bergin added.

Students in the NHS feel that scholarship programs like the one offered by GUH are a positive step towards ending the nursing shortage. “I’m glad to hear about such scholarship opportunities because the nursing shortage in our country is a crisis and needs to be addressed especially when our price for education can be quite high,” Daniela Coelho (NHS ’05) said. “It’s a great incentive for nurses or anyone considering a career in nursing.”

One of the positive outcomes of the nursing shortage is the rise in the number of jobs available for recent and future graduates. “Job opportunities for RNs are expected to be very good,” the U.S. Department of Labor reported on their website. Employment of registered nurses is expected to grow faster than the average (21 to 35 percent) for all occupations through 2010 . thousands of job openings also will result from the need to replace experienced nurses who leave the occupation, especially as the median age of the registered nurse population continues to rise.”

Many NHS students are excited about their future employment prospects. “From what my teachers tell me, the outlook is great,” Afua Tay (NHS ’06) said. “Right now it is easier to get a job as a nurse than it is to find work in other fields.”

Bergin agreed that the shortage has been beneficial for students. “NHS graduates are considered the cream of the crop by hospitals and health systems across the country. The current shortage of nurses has only made our graduates more desirable,” he said.

The NHS also expects to see an increase in enrollment for the accelerated Second Degree BSN program, which allows people who already have a B.A. to take classes for 16 months and receive a degree in nursing. Last year approximately 10 people were enrolled in this program. Tricia Jorden, director of admission and outreach for the NHS, anticipates this number to rise to almost 60 people for next year.

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